Top 10 Software Calamities of 2016

Before we get too far into 2017, it’s time to take a look back at 10 of the biggest screw-ups, meltdowns and miscalculations related to software development. As a retired late-night talk show host used to do, we’ll count ’em down in reverse:

10. Apple bricks its iOS release: Back in September, the world’s best-known purveyor of elegant personal computing devices released its iOS10 and macOS Sierra at the same time. Apple called it the “biggest iOS release ever.” Check out the nightmare that ensued for Apple users.

9. Software tanks the Singapore stock exchange: A combined hardware/software problem was blamed for the longest disruption in the history of the nation’s stock exchange. Apparently, software supplied by the United States’ NASDAQ market failed to detect a failed hard disk and switch over to a backup as it was supposed to, the report said.

8. Is that car broken down again? Blame a programmer. Throughout the year, we continued to see software glitches forcing carmakers to recall millions of vehicles, including a major recall at GM. As a 2016 report said, cars are now driven by software, and automakers should be using service virtualization to test that software rigorously.

7. Unfriendly skies: At the peak of summer travel season, Southwest Airlines saw its computer system crash, grounding 2,000 flights. Company officials called it the worst outage in memory. IT experts said the cause was likely a software problem that could easily have been detected through simple resting. Indeed, companies that employ Service Virtualization can test for any imaginable scenario, component failure or traffic load.

6. No Netflix, all chill: The leading web TV streaming service, Netflix, dropped its new batch of Luke Cage episodes and promptly suffered a demand-related outage that affected its 127 million users. I bet the CEO was really, really angry. (Not so much all the men who had agreed to watch romantic comedies with their wives that weekend.)

5. You are under attack: Massive Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks became a weekly scourge, as hackers learned how to harness the items you use around the house to attack the services you rely upon. Affected services included Amazon, Spotify, Netflix, Reddit and Twitter. Automated testing could help harden security against such attacks.

4. Black Friday redux: Some companies never seem to learn. The shopping throngs came, and the companies weren’t ready. Profits went down the toilet. Rinse and repeat.

3. Deadly defect on an Airbus: A military transport went down in Spain with four people aboard. According to an industry blog, Airbus Chief Strategist Marwan Lahoud said the problem was a “quality issue in the final assembly” of the plane’s software. The blog interpreted that to mean that while original code had no errors, either new problems emerged in installation or the code “was not sufficiently tested in its new hardware environment.”

2. Wrong number (of tests run): In Pinellas County, Fla., a software glitch caused 911 calls to be routed to neighboring municipalities for some five hours. Said one county official, “It’s technology. It’s equipment. It’s computers. And as I think anyone knows working with their home computer, their laptop, their iPhone, technology happens and you do have issues with it.” That’s why we test. And then we test again. And again. With automation, it’s easy.

And now, the No. 1 meltdown of the year …

1.: Obliterated in space: Japanese scientists spent years and years designing, perfecting, building and launching the Hitomi X-ray telescope. All was going fine until engineers sent up a software patch in March that resulted in “attitude anomaly,” “objects separation” and “communication anomaly.” Or, in regular language, the $286 million craft was quite literally obliterated — torn to pieces — by bad software.

Don’t be torn apart by bad software in 2017. Look into Service Virtualization. It can help.